Minneapolis, St. Paul business reactions mixed over new vaccine mandate

Starting January 19, Minneapolis and St. Paul will require proof of COVID-19 vaccination or a negative test at places were people eat and drink including restaurants, bars and entertainment venues.

Vaccine mandate has restaurant owners divided

Twin Cities business owners are split over Wednesday’s mandate requiring proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test to dine in Minneapolis and St. Paul restaurants.

"I need help, and these things aren’t helping," Loon Café owner Tim Mahoney told FOX 9. The owner of The Loon Café restaurants in Minneapolis and St. Paul sees Wednesday’s announcement as another development making it harder to keep the doors open at his restaurants.

"It’s great news for us," Hark! Café co-owner Katherine Pardue said. 

Pardue says her downtown Minneapolis café and bar actually contacted city council in August to suggest the city enact a vaccine mandate months ago.

"From their response, it didn’t seem like they were pursuing it very strongly and that’s when we decided to be leaders and do it on our own," Pardue said. In August the restaurant decided to enforce a vaccine mandate for its dine-in patrons, long before the city’s announcement.

"People that don’t live in Minneapolis were upset," Pardue said. But overall, Pardue says the response from the community was supportive of the decision. "We gained I think 30% in sales after we made the choice, because there wasn’t another option for people to feel like they could dine safely."

"We’re going to make less money in the end," Mahoney said in contrast. "Every time they do this, it’s just another hit, it’s just another little ding and we just can’t take it anymore. The revenue sources that we depend on are getting smaller and smaller and smaller."

Mahoney believes in COVID-19 vaccination, and he’s gone as far as to mandate the shot for his entire staff. But he still thinks Wednesday’s news will only push customers away, hurting their business.

"If it’s statewide, fine," he said. "But you can’t pit one community versus another and that’s what’s happening. You can go to West St. Paul, which is five minutes from here, you can go to Roseville, you can go to Woodbury… they don’t have mask mandates, they don’t have [vaccination] card mandates, they have free parking."

He also feels the restaurant industry is being unfairly singled out, saying, "COVID-19 doesn’t just go in restaurants and bars."


Not just restaurants and bars, other businesses too

Along with impact on major sports centers like Target Center and Xcel Energy Center, The new regulation will also apply to small businesses in the Twin Cities that serve food and drinks indoors, like wedding venues, catering halls, movie theaters, and bowling alleys. 

Memory Lanes in Minneapolis has been serving up strikes for more than five decades, but the last two years have been unlike anything general manager Greg Peterson has ever seen. 

"We had supply chain issues, we had money issues, we had staffing issues and now this," said Peterson. 

The cold winter months are the most profitable time of the year for the bowling alley and Peterson says this new requirement is another punch in the gut for the business. 

"I don't understand why we are always the whipping boy for these sorts of things. It seems like a half measure that makes some noise, but I don't know that it's going to make a big difference. I've seen nothing that suggests that it's going to move the needle at all, and I am all for moving the needle," he said.

As for how it will all roll out, Peterson says he will probably need to hire a doorman to check the required documents.

"How much longer can we take it? You walk down the skyway system in Minneapolis, it’s devastated. All those small bars and restaurants that have been on those floors for years are gone. Are they ever going to reopen? Probably not," said Mahoney.